Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 39, No. 15 - Johannes Brahms

Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 39, No. 15 by Johannes Brahms is a solo piano piece composed in 1892 and is one of the most important works of the German composer. It has been praised for its strong melody and noteworthy harmonic progressions.

History and Release of the Piece

Brahms composed this piece between December 1892 and June 1893, when he was living in Vienna; it was finally published in 1895 as part of his Op. 39 Set of Waltzes for Piano. The five-part set of waltzes was composed in homage to the beloved piano music of Weißenbach, Christian Theodor Weyse, and Joseph Drechsler. The third movement of the set, “Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 39, No. 15”, is Brahms’ most popular waltz in patriotic German style and was the first of many of his works he chose to name his “Deutsches Werk.”

Simplified Analysis of the Composition

The composed piece is in A-flat major, a distant relative of D major, and has a strong melody constructed of slightly longer eight-note phrases for left-hand arpeggios. A single line of pedal enables the waltz to be sustained and creates a sense of continuity throughout, even when the left hand transitions from melody to a string of chords. The waltz moves back and forth between the primary key and its relative minor, E-flat minor, while the cadential point is the unique F major. Overall, the piece can be described as light-filled and exuberant and the regular rhythms provide an extra layer of traditional German dance music feel.

Popularity of the Piece

This piece is one of the most popular among all the works by Brahms and a true classic of solo piano literature. Its melodic charm, powerful flow, and brightness make it stand out from the other waltzes to become one of the most entertaining works in all of classical music. It was first performed live in Boston in 1897 at the annual Brahms Festival and has been included in many collections, including the very successful Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics, by the great 19th-century pianist Ferruccio Busoni. The piece quickly gained popularity, remaining popular to this day.

Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 39, No. 15 is one of the most beloved composer's works and is a popular solo piece. The sweeping melody and unique harmonic progressions have made it a fan favorite. Its strong European traditional style and cheerful feel make it a joy to listen to and play.

Publication date: 18. 02. 2023